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Wildcats hope to play better against the option

September 8, 2017 GMT

Early on against Central Arkansas, the Kansas State defense looked a little out of sorts.

One play in particular seemed to vex the defense throughout the game, though. The option.

Going into Game 2 against Charlotte, the Wildcats hope to have some of those problems fixed.

Central Arkansas quarterback Hayden Hildebrand used the threat of running the option to open up areas of the pass game. K-State coach Bill Snyder wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“Some of the bootleg-type plays and misdirected passes were something we had difficulty with,” Snyder said. “The fact that the young guy completed 77 percent of his passes was a substantial number against us. I do not want us to have that kind of difficulty.”

This week the Wildcats face more of a true running quarterback in 49ers’ starter Hasaan Klugh. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to Eastern Michigan, Klugh rushed for 101 yards and passed for 114.

Snyder said Klugh, who had a 51-yard run last week, is what the 49ers’ offense revolves around.

“From an offensive standpoint, I like the progress that they have made with their offensive line,” Snyder said. “They have a mobile offensive line that runs well. They have a good running back that can run downhill well, but the key to their offense is the quarterback. He is very talented. He is probably a 4.6 (second 40-yard dash) or better. He has good range and runs well.

“They have option football, which was a nemesis for us last week. We have got to work that out, and that is just becoming more responsible in regards to what one’s responsibility happens to be.”

The option can be a tough play to stop, especially with several different iterations of the play. The traditional option has the quarterback running the ball to his left or right and then having the option to pitch it to a running back or keep it and cut upfield.

Another version, known as the read option, relies on the quarterback reading the defense at the start of the play and either handing the ball off or keeping it and running. Add in more complicated versions that incorporate more runners and the option to pass, and the play becomes harder to stop.

Most of Snyder’s Week 1 frustrations against the option stemmed from the fact that Central Arkansas wasn’t running a complicated version, but rather the traditional edition of the play.

Backup linebacker Elijah Sullivan said the Wildcat defense is studying hard in the film room this week to learn how to be in better position to defend the option this time around.

Sullivan said Central Arkansas caught the defense off guard by incorporating some plays they didn’t expect to see and it took time to get adjusted to it. This time they’ll be more ready.

“It’s just knowing your assignments better and being the best football player you can be,” Sullivan said. “Watching film and film study will help a lot, too. Film study will help us know what our assignments are.”

The biggest issues for the Wildcats’ defense seemed to come from the starting linebacker corps. But guys who came in late in the game, like Sullivan and Justin Hughes, showed K-State has options. The coaching staff took notice.

“I was pleased, and I thought we identified the fact that we had depth. We thought we had it, but we were uncertain about it because they had not been on the field before. Some of our second string came in and played well.”